Age related hearing loss or ‘presbycusis’ by its medical term is one of most common types of hearing loss disability to affect older people in the western world. Its name may appear slightly misleading as symptoms could appear as early as in a person’s forties. However, it is more commonly seen in people over 65.
Age Related Hearing Loss Information:
The main cause of age related hearing loss, as its name implies, is due to the natural process of ageing common to us all. Our hearing is based on an ability to capture sensory triggers and deliver them to the brain to interpret. In the case of age related hearing loss, the tiny hair-like sensory cells within the cochlea of the inner ear that are tasked with capturing the information contained in waves of sound deteriorate in quality, are damaged or die. These tiny hair-like sensory cells do not regenerate and so some sound information is not passed to the brain to interrupt. The extent of any resulting hearing loss varies person to person, as other factors such as genetic factors, the amount of prolonged exposure to noise and the general health of the hearing system will also impact the severity of the hearing loss.Age Related Hearing Loss Symptoms:
The effects of age related hearing loss vary person to person. Each individual will feel some of these listed below to a greater or lesser extent.
- Greater difficulty in hearing people talking when there is background noise around.
- Overall sounds will seem less clear and other people’s voices will seem mumbled or slurred.
- Trouble hearing the telephone, the doorbell and other sounds when others can. Most commonly having to increase the volume on the TV when other family members can hear fine at a softer volume
- During a conversion there will be a growing demand to ask people to repeat their words and after the conversion has ended, the person may feel tired
- A person may experience an inability to hear high-pitched sounds such as “s” and “th”
Unfortunately to date, there is no ‘cure’ but rather means to manage the condition so its impact on daily life is decreased. If you suspect that you suffer from hearing loss or someone in your family does, the first course of action is to visit your family doctor or book a hearing test at your local hearing specialist. It is important to investigate the reason for the hearing loss, as it may not always be age related. Once the degree of any hearing loss is determined, you will usually be presented with a number of hearing aid options to try. These are electronic (digital) instruments that work to amplify incoming sound, to try to compensate for the loss in function in the inner ear.
Digital hearing aids – These are tiny computer like devices that vary in how they fit the wearer’s ear from inside the ear (tiny and discreet) to behind the ear (comfy and usually capable of delivering more amplification). They work by amplifying certain frequencies that a hard of hearing person may have trouble hearing.
Amplified phones – These are available from dedicated manufacturers in the shape of desk, cordless and mobile phones. They work by amplifying the sound of the incoming voice on the handset as well as often amplifying the ringtone. Most have adjustable volume so other household members who may have normal hearing can use the device as well. These phones are suited for the deaf, hard of hearing and vision impaired due to the use of big buttons, large screen and in some models, flashing lights to indicate an incoming call.
Assistive Listening Devices – These contain a growing number of day-to-day devices that have been adapted to suit the needs of the hard of hearing. They include such devices as TV headphones, amplified headsets, neckloops and even amplified alarm clocks.
As we are a visually oriented society it may seems as if hearing loss does not touch the lives of many people, but truth of the matter is it does. Without addressing the issue head on, those with hearing loss may face a growing difficulty and frustration in their daily activities, lifestyle, communication and emotional and physical health. These could be avoided by addressing hearing loss.
Article written by Joan McKechnie BSc Hons Audiology & Speech Pathology. Joan works for hearing aid company Hearing Direct the UK’s biggest hard of hearing and elderly telephone provider. Joan also writes a weekly blog about hearing loss and she is available for consultation over the phone. Details on the Hearing Direct site.